Story By: Sofija Dizdarevik, Sub Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Central European News
A court’s decision to release seven teenagers charged with repeatedly gang-raping and threatening a 15-year-old girl over the course of a year has sparked outrage in Croatia.
According to local media, Judge Ivica Markovic at the County Court in the north-western Croatian city of Zadar released the seven defendants, aged between 17 and 19, with precautionary measures.
Reports said that one of them was the victim’s ex-boyfriend.
They were charged by the police for gang-raping the then 15-year old girl for over a year and using the footage they filmed to blackmail her into keeping silent, according to reports.
The unnamed victim was allegedly gang-raped many times from August 2018 until July this year and some of the incidents were filmed on their mobile phones.
Zadar County Court spokesman Hrvoje Viskovic said: “The judge has released them and decided to replace a prison term with precautionary measures.
“They are prohibited from approaching the victim and have to report to the police twice a month.
“It is a matter of the judge’s judgement for a case of rape against a person who is vulnerable.”
“The judge believed there was not a danger that the boys could repeat the offence.”
Meanwhile, the judge is unable to explain his decision because the investigation has been kept secret under law, according to local media.
His decision has reportedly sparked a wave of anger and criticism in Croatia.
The State Attorney’s Office has announced that they will appeal the decision.
President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said on social media: “I am dismayed [by the decision] and I call on the authorities and society as a whole to pay special attention in the fight against all forms of violence.
“We cannot close our eyes in the face of violence in our society, because then victims will be further abused.”
According to local media, Croatian lawyer Branko Seric also commented on the judge’s decision: “It is not just a question of approaching the victim, there are other witnesses who can confirm or deny her allegations and I do not know how the judge made that decision.
“For me, the argument that the boys have not been convicted before is not enough. If something happened over a long period of time, that is enough for detention. These are dubious decisions.”
The appeal process is ongoing.
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